Prototyping with Ultra-Thin Glass



Photo of Sophie Pennetier

Sophie Pennetier

Associate Director - Specialty Design


Photo of Josephine Stoddard

Josephine Stoddard

Master of Building Science, Structural and Environmental Analysis and Design

University of Southern California School of Architecture

Photo of Karen Kensek

Karen Kensek


University of Southern California School of Architecture


This paper proposes system concepts and fabrication methods for the use of ultra-thin glass in facades. It documents the team's research on ultra-thin glass, from a sculpture in 2017 to the development of a pavilion in 2018 and 2019. Explorations include development in prototyping, cutting methods, lamination techniques and connections specific to ultra-thin glass.


Ultra-thin glass comprises glass below 1-2mm in thickness. As such, it is very flexible. For example, ultra-thin glass of 0.1mm thickness will bend similarly to a regular sheet of paper

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1. Glass Cutting

Glass manufacturers using ultra-thin glass for consumer electronics or interior wall panel applications use either scribing or laser cutting technologies. Scribing consists of scoring the surface of the glass with

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1.1 Waterjet Cutting

The use of a waterjet to cut glass is quite common when glass is in the range of 2-20mm. The team tested cutting ultra-thin glass with a 5-axis CNC waterjet

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1.2 Laser Cutting

With the goal of developing a widely available cutting methodology, our team explored the use of tabletop laser cutters generally available in multiple architects or designers’ offices. These laser cutters

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1.3 Scribing

Scribing consist of scoring glass with a diamond wheel in order to create a vent, before the glass is manually broken along the vent. This technique has been mastered by

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1.4 Structural Cutting

Glass strength is a function of the distributions of material flaws and their propensity to grow and is primarily affected by the edge roughness. While being innovative (and quite open-minded)

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2. Lamination

Safety glass is comprised of tempered and/or laminated glass. As previously documented [3], Willow Glass behaves like an annealed product which breaks into large shards and requires lamination. Lamination enables

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3. Connections

The ultra-thin glass panels of the 2017 sculpture project were interconnected by means of free-form sweeping V profiles, following helicoidal curves. At that scale, the V profiles could not have

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4. Pavilion Design + Connections

While team Enclos performed research on cutting and laminating ultra-thin glass through the residency at the Boston Build Space and capitalizing on internal knowledge and external suppliers, Josephine Stoddard wrote

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Conclusion and Future Work

The present research was approached on two aspects: manufacturing and design, as these are inextricable.

This article demonstrates that low cost tools, accessible to a large pool of students and design

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The authors wish to acknowledge the Building Science department at the University of Southern California, Enclos Advanced Technology Studio, the Autodesk Boston Build Space and the Strand7 support team

Rights and Permissions (accessed 4/30/2019) (accessed 4/30/2019)

Shaping ultra-thin glass, Pennetier, Bowers, Evain, GPD 2017

Concepts for Working with Ultra-Thin Glass in Elastic Bending: Typological Development and Emergent Technology, Josephine Stoddard, University of Southern California school of Architecture, 2019 (accessed 4/30/2019) (accessed 4/30/2019)